Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Gerard Henderson, India, uranium, street crime, and a particularly grubby column

Is it just me, or is it just grubbiness of an arcane kind to link the assault and murder of Indians in Australia to Australia's current policies in relation to the sale of uranium to India?

That's the convoluted tap dance performed by Gerard Henderson in Student assaults teach some harsh lessons about racism. Which reads as a kind of sequel to his June 2009 piece A bruised relationship with India.

First there's the pious cluck clucking and tut tutting about the latest murder of an Indian worker and student, but then the punchline that follows makes you wonder just how much an individual tragedy can be turned to aberrant political purpose:

The tragedy happened to coincide with a distinct cooling in the relationship between the two nations over the past couple of years. During a visit to India in late 2008 I was surprised to hear strong criticism of Kevin Rudd at the highest levels of the New Delhi administration. India's prime gripe turned on the refusal of the Rudd Government's to sell uranium to India, which overturned the intention of John Howard and his senior ministers.

"Happened to coincide"?

Never mind, a coincidence is a handy thing. So, Henderson seems to be saying, let's trawl through the aberrant racism of the western suburbs of Melbourne and link it to Indian political gripes about the Rudd government's refusal to sell uranium to India - which just happens, of course, to overturn John Howard's stout-hearted policy of sell, baby, sell (or was that drill baby drill, or burn baby burn?)

We've given up running a book on Henderson's incessant kowtowing to Howard and the Howard years, but it's refreshing to see that Howard still looms in the fifth para as the all-knowing guru.

Naturally Henderson knows all the excuses and reasons for selling nuclear weapons into the sub-continental cauldron off by heart.

Some prominent Indians have vented their displeasure in public. Shashi Tharoor, the minister of state in the external affairs department, knows Australia well. During a visit to Australia in 2008, before he took up his present position, he accused Rudd Labor of practising a type of apartheid. He complained "there isn't a rational reason for the Australian position because Australia does sell uranium to nuclear-weapon-producing states, including China".

A kind of apartheid? Well in another context, that would surely produce a remonstration from Henderson, along the lines of a breach of Godwin's law. Because there's clearly nothing like apartheid involved in the decision not to sell uranium to India. It's because India has refused to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and Henderson knows it:

The Rudd Government refuses to allow the sale of Australian uranium to India because it has not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. As the Macquarie University academic Lavina Lee has pointed out, this has had the unintended consequence of placing India "in the same deviant category as other non-members of the [treaty], such as Pakistan and North Korea". India is not a military threat and has reason to need a nuclear deterrent.

Well actually it puts it in the same deviant category as Israel, which has refused to sign the treaty. In fact there are 189 signatories to the treaty and only four recognised sovereign states that aren't parties to it (here for the details). And only a Henderson could pen the pious waffle that India isn't a military threat, yet has reason to need a nuclear deterrent. Not a military threat to whom? Australia? Or Pakistan? An unstable state made more so by the peacock strutting its indulged in its relationship to India over the years. And vice versa.

But hey who cares about rogue nations if everybody is rushing to make moola out of rewarding them for non-compliance. When it comes to cash, who cares about principles?

Australia has a policy of not selling uranium to any nation that has not ratified the non-proliferation treaty. However, Canada announced recently that its firms will be allowed to export uranium for India's civilian nuclear energy market. Moreover, in 2008, the US negotiated a civilian nuclear co-operation agreement with India.

Oh yes, let's take the money and run. What joy that Pakistan, heading towards failed state status, has nukes to hand, and how much handier that India has got the nukes to nuke them back. And thank the lord that poses no military threat.

Never mind, let's not worry about a few nukes. I'm still wondering what this debate about uranium got to do with street crime in Victoria?

Well it seems bugger all, unless of course you like sly innuendo and sniggering of a snickering kind:

Obviously, the Federal Government is not responsible for street crime in Victoria.

Phew that's a relief, even if I regularly blame Chairman Rudd for everything, but I'm sure we can do a non sequitur and hop into someone else:

But the state's premier, John Brumby, heads a Labor government that gives the impression of being unduly sensitive to upsetting some vocal minorities.

Yep, without pausing for breath, Henderson has turned the column around to a bashing of the Victorian government and Victorian police.

But here you have to read very closely to get at the truth. Just who are these vocal minorities who create such undue sensitivity?

The NSW police force has an organised crime directorate that includes both an Asian Crime Squad and a Middle East Organised Crime Squad. The NSW Government makes no apologies for targeting suspected criminals in response to perceived need. Victoria Police has no equivalent units. There have been suggestions that young Indians in Melbourne are being targeted by other ethnic groups. The Victorian Government has been silent on this matter.

Could it be that they just don't know? Hardly a satisfactory state of affairs, but it's exceedingly handy to blame "other ethnic groups" (read groups deserving of an Asian crime squad and a Middle East Organised Crime squad) when lordy some of them might actually be Anglo racists. Unless of course you just want to say it's all the fault of the Asians and people of Middle Eastern appearance, but don't have the guts to say it, or the evidence to prove it.

Here's an alternative assessment of an attack on Indian students in Ballarat, and an attack on an Indian couple in Bundoora, and a stabbing in Footscray and attacks on Indian taxi drivers:

The above incidents do fly in the face of claims that those responsible for this violence are mostly "ethnics" themselves; a point of view favoured by right-wing commentators like Andrew Bolt. While some of the attacks on Indians have certainly come from people of African, Middle-Eastern, Asian and Pacific Islander backgrounds, white people have been well represented also - more or less proportional to their overall numbers in the community. Folks on the right have an agenda to deny that racism exists in Australia; or when it does exist, its mostly just "those ethnics" who are responsible anyway. In other words, people who, despite having grown up and been educated here, are somehow not really Australian. (here).

Somehow I don't think that the thoughtful person who dropped this note into my letter box a couple of days ago was Asian or Middle-eastern:

600,000 immigrants
arrived in the last 4 years
That's more than Tasmania
More than the Aborigines.
More than Newcastle.
More than we need.

Thanks for that.

There's no doubt that the Victorian police are in to denial when it comes to racial motivations for attacks on Indians, but given the lack of evidence and lack of arrests, it's also not an easy matter to determine the race of those motivated to attack Indians, especially as there are a host of complicating factors (not least the occupations of some of the victims, which can place them on the front line of crime).

But then Henderson himself doesn't help matters when he further conflates and confuses a matter involving the murder of a resident Australian:

There is a reluctance among some Victorian politicians, police and judges to acknowledge that racial violence - frequently fuelled by alcohol and drug-induced rage - takes place. The Herald Sun recently drew attention to the decision of Justice Elizabeth Curtain in the Victorian Supreme Court. She sentenced Clinton Rintoull, who had pleaded guilty to murdering Dylan Sabatino, a young Sudanese refugee.

Well actually Dylan Sabatino was one of the accused. The victim? An Australian of Sudanese origin. Oh boy, I'd love to see Henderson talking about a leftie ABC journo who perpetrated that kind of howler. Never mind, let's move on, and read a bit of the judgement:

Your victim, Liep Johnson Gony, was 19 when he died on 27 September 2007. He was born in the Sudan but his family fled to Ethiopia when he was six and eventually he came to Australia with family members in 1999, living first in Hobart and then he came to Victoria in 2001, where he and his family lived as part of the Sudanese community in Springvale South. At the time of his death he had successfully applied to study graphic design at a TAFE college and was about to commence full time employment.

But then Henderson could have found out what the judge had said about the case by going to the judgement in the Supreme Court of Victoria, R v Rintoull & Sabatino.

Instead he preferred his own version and here it is:

It was one of those tragic cases where the murderer was in an alcoholic/drug-induced rage and the victim was also very drunk. As the judge found, this was a "savage, ferocious and brutal attack". The murderer had previously announced his intention to "kill the blacks". Even so, in her decision to sentence Rintoull to a 16-year non-parole period, the judge said she was "not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that your actions were so racially motivated and that racism per se was a motive for the attack".

Now let's revert to the the judge's summary, which discloses greater complexities than allowed for in Henderson's summary, but which nonetheless acknowledges the racial elements:

Thirdly as to whether this killing was racially motivated. The nature of the graffiti sprayed on the walls of the house only one section of which expressed racial sentiments; your comments as expressed in the “000” tapes, and your comments as heard by Mr Lambourne, Ms Chambers and Shandell Laurie bespeak anger, frustration and a sense of vigilantism and it cannot be denied that there is a racial aspect to your remarks directed to the group that had pursued you earlier in the week and as recorded in the one piece of graffiti which was expressed in the most derogatory and insulting terms.

Indeed. And the judge has plenty more to say, and to explain how she came to her conclusions. You might not agree with them - I found it a bit of a stretch in places - but she's a damn sight more articulate and considered than Henderson.

But why let an actual reading of the judgment get in the way of a prejudice? Not when it allows for a final mealy mouthed piece of special pleading:

What is needed in Victoria is greater disclosure - from Brumby to his Attorney-General, Rob Hulls, down - about street crime. Yesterday Gillard seemed to indicate she was concerned about race as a factor in the attacks on Indians when she said the Rudd Government was worried about these crimes. She added: "We want to make sure that people who come to our country - whether they come as migrants, as students, as visitors - are made welcome."

Oops, could it be that Australia and Australians might have a tinge of racism? Steady, don't want to go too far - remember Henderson dismissed the Cronulla riots as a one off event, and celebrated the fall out as Just another sunny afternoon.

And he's still singing the same benign tune:

Australia remains a country with a relatively low level of ethnically motivated crime.

Because you see John Howard's migrant bashing and Hansonite rhetoric had no impact on peace loving Australians, and as a result, Victorian police now have the enviable task of rooting out ethnically motivated crime which has ruined our relationship with India while at the same time reminding everyone that Australia is a country with a relatively low level of ethnically motivated crime. In keeping with Henderson's convoluted understanding of the situation.

Got all that? Good, because you could get yourself a job as a rubber man in a Marvel comic.

The prospect of keeping this as low as possible would be enhanced if Victorian authorities were more frank about the background of those committing, or suspected of, random acts of violence.

Keeping it as low as possible?

Well perhaps Henderson might enlighten us as to the background of Mr. Clinton David Rintoull and Mr. Dylan Giuseppe Sabatino, and what relevance their crimes have to do with the bashings or murders of Indians by persons unknown, and what relevance these crimes have to do with Australia's policy regarding the selling of uranium to India?

Or is dog whistling and rabble rousing, as practised by John Howard, still the most important skill of a commentariat columnist?

(Below: Clinton Rintoull and Dylan Sabatino, killers of Liep Gony, and further below an alternative sketch, with the victim's mother and the victim).


  1. The name Dynlan Giuseppe Sabatino doesn't sound too Anglo to me.

    "white people have been well represented also, more or less proportional to their overall numbers in the community."

    Proportional. So whites aren't "more racist", there's simply more of them.

    "Well perhaps Henderson might enlighten us as to what relevance..."

    And perhaps you can enlighten as to what relevance a flyer found in your *Sydney* letterbox (which refers only to the excessive number of immigrants, not their race) has to do with crimes committed in Melbourne.

  2. Thanks for pointing out the typo. I see Henderson has also corrected his egregious error of confusing the victim with the criminal. Glad to hear you're still keeping count of the Anglos and have the ear to detect 'wog sounding names'. Keep up the good work, and drop another note in my letterbox some time. Not that I'm any way suggesting that there might be a streak of racism in a country with such a proud white Australian anglo track record.

  3. I've got plenty of other letterboxes to do. No repeats, sorry.

    There's a streak of racism in every country. In China, India and Japan, it's not so much a streak as a paint roller on steroids.


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